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In re Powell

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 14, 2017

In the Matter of: Everett E. Powell II, Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer Robert W. York

          Respondent Pro Se Everett E. Powell II Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Angie L. Ordway, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana

          Per Curiam.

         We find that Respondent, Everett Powell, committed attorney misconduct by falsifying evidence and knowingly making false statements to this Court and the Commission in an attempt to be reinstated to the practice of law. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be disbarred.

         This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's "Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action, " and on the post-hearing briefing by the parties. Respondent's 2004 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4.

         Procedural Background and Facts

         Assisted by another attorney, T.G. obtained a settlement of a personal injury action. Because T.G. was in an abusive relationship and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, that attorney, with T.G.'s consent, established a special needs trust in 2004 to hold the settlement proceeds and prevent rapid depletion by T.G. and others who may not be acting in her best interests. Later in 2004, T.G., accompanied by her abusive partner, consulted Respondent about getting access to the trust funds. Respondent agreed to take the case for a fee of one-third of the trust corpus. After expending only minimal work, Respondent became successor trustee and quickly disbursed from the trust about $30, 000 to T.G. and about $15, 000 to himself. For his conduct in collecting an unreasonable fee, we suspended Respondent from the practice of law for at least 120 days without automatic reinstatement, effective November 11, 2011. Matter of Powell, 953 N.E.2d 1060 (Ind. 2011). Meanwhile, T.G.'s share was quickly dissipated on drugs and expenditures to T.G.'s partner and his family, an outcome the special needs trust had been designed to avoid.

         Thereafter Respondent sought and was denied reinstatement. Those proceedings included findings by a hearing officer[1] that Respondent had, among other things, continued to practice law during his suspension, failed to appropriately maintain his trust account, forged the signatures of clients and another attorney, filed a false affidavit with this Court, and misappropriated $5, 000 from another client. The hearing officer also found that Respondent had made no effort to make restitution to T.G. despite the financial ability to do so.

         Only three days after we issued our order denying reinstatement, Respondent filed a second petition for reinstatement. Those proceedings included findings by the hearing officer that Respondent "has continued to engage in dishonesty, including filing two subsequent false or misleading affidavits with the Supreme Court, noticing a deposition without a court reporter in order to circumvent the hearing officer's mandate, filing bankruptcy, failure to pay debts, yet retaining the use of the property for which the debt was owed, filing meritless pleadings, engaging in verbally aggressive attitude and behavior to advance his position, [and] being evasive and lacking candor when questioned during the hearing." Comm'n Ex. 4 at 41. The hearing officer also found that Respondent still had made no efforts toward restitution to T.G. other than "last minute, token efforts, calculated to further his goal" of being reinstated. Id. at 32. We denied Respondent's second reinstatement petition by order issued on March 6, 2014. In that order we identified several concerns we had regarding Respondent's conduct during the reinstatement process, one of which was that Respondent "has only belatedly attempted to make even nominal restitution to T.G." Comm'n Ex. 5 at 2. Respondent then filed a "Request for Clarification, " which we denied on July 11, 2014.

         The events that ensued form the basis for the Commission's verified complaint in this matter. On July 21, 2014, Respondent drove to Iowa to meet with T.G. at her workplace. Respondent told T.G. he needed her to sign a document stating that he had given her $15, 000, but informed T.G. that he had only $1, 500 to give her. T.G. agreed to sign the document, and Respondent assisted T.G. in executing, before a notary public, a document he had prepared falsely stating that T.G. had received $15, 000. Respondent then gave T.G. $1, 500. Respondent told T.G. she would not get in trouble for signing the document, but that if anyone from Indiana called her she should not say anything.

         T.G. soon talked with friends and acquaintances, realized she had been taken advantage of, and contacted the Commission. Meanwhile, on August 26, 2014, Respondent (acting pro se) filed a third petition for reinstatement. Simultaneously, Respondent sent a letter and updated discovery to the Commission, falsely asserting in both that he had made full restitution of $15, 000 and submitting the false document to this effect that he had induced T.G. to sign.

         On September 3, 2014, the Commission served its Notice of Trial Deposition of T.G. as an out-of-state witness, scheduled for September 20, 2014. About a week prior to that deposition, Respondent twice called T.G., attempting to determine what she had told the Commission. T.G. did not answer his question. On September 15, 2014, Respondent (through his newly-retained counsel) filed a motion to withdraw his third reinstatement petition, in which he once again falsely represented that he had paid T.G. the full $15, 000 restitution. The Commission nonetheless proceeded to take the trial deposition of T.G. in order to secure her testimony. Respondent's counsel indicated he did not object to the deposition and elected not to attend.

         The Commission charged Respondent with violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.3(a)(1), 3.4(b), and 8.4(c). At the final hearing in this matter, T.G.'s videotaped deposition was admitted over Respondent's objection. Respondent made an unsworn opening statement challenging T.G.'s credibility and claiming to have given her $15, 000 in cash, but he expressly declined to testify. The hearing officer filed his report to this Court ...

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